Back under the tent, we were asked to sign a waiver. It was the standard "in case I'm injured, I won't sue you" kind of thing. We were also warned again about the problems with cell phones and blasting caps. We would be warned thrice more before the end of the evening.
After the waiver signing (and more margaritas), we were finally shown Tabula Rasa. It was essentially the same presentation given at E3 in Santa Monica. We were shown the way users can control the game world by owning control points. If the enemy forces controlled these points, missions and services in that area would be unavailable. They explained the nature of the game's combat system, the story was revealed and in general, we were shown how and why it was the most innovative, user-friendly MMOG ever created.
Considering how much theater went into the rest of the evening's presentations, the Tabula Rasa demonstration was surprisingly bullshit free. The game is gorgeous, the innovations to the genre are truly innovative and I can honestly say it's the first MMOG I've seen that would make me want to play an MMOG. Garriott and team set out to make a game that eliminated level grinding, experience farming and standing around whacking a monster for hours on end just to get the few scraps of story offered by most MMOGs. As far as I can tell, they succeeded. Tabula Rasa is currently in live beta, but is scheduled for retail release on October 19.
"The Bus Is Dead"
The words "dire" and "peril" used in conjunction with the term "blasting cap" is usually enough to scare even the most stubborn hold out into complying with spoken directives. This evening was no exception.
As we were loaded onto the buses once more and asked yet again to surrender our phones, very few, if any, refused. Margaritas downed, game seen, scheduled bathroom break taken, we were now on our way for the climactic demonstration at the construction site of Richard Garriott's new castle. And then the bus died.
There were two buses chartered for the event, each holding about 40-plus people. The one I was on refused to make the journey. It was just another glitch for what must have been a monumental entertainment undertaking, but understanding is hard to come by at midnight, after a six hour tour of a very large home.
As we waited at various points (first on the bus itself, then later at the construction site, while the remainder of the tour members were crated in separate trips aboard the single remaining bus), it was hard not to wonder just what the final reveal might be, and if it would be worth the wait.
We were escorted through the construction site where actors dressed like workers complained about not being told of the visit (in spite of the elaborate effort to make the areas as safe as possible) and shown a collection of artifacts unearthed during the excavation. We were then crammed under an awning on the far side of the property, near a white, three-pronged obelisk. We were instructed to remain under the awning at all times, roped in with caution tape, and asked to wait - again. And that's when things got weird.
Next Page: "Something to Write About"